Can any of you relate to this? - By Marty Friedman

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I found this story I wrote for a magazine a very long time ago and got a laugh, so I`ll share it with you guys. Maybe you have similar experiences?? Lemme know!

When I was a teenager in Hawaii, I gave a guitar seminar at a music college in Honolulu. Heavy metal was not popular at all in Hawaii, but there were about 30 longhaired kids there, all wearing heavy metal t-shirts and leather armbands. I was doing my seminar, playing guitar, answering their questions, explaining guitar and music concepts and everything was going along just fine. After about 20 minutes, one of the music professors from the college started to loudly and angrily shout out things from the back of the room. “You’re teaching these kids all wrong! Your way of improvising doesn’t make musical sense at all. Haven’t you ever studied jazz?” I was pretty shocked to hear a grown man interrupt my seminar like that. He continued, ”I bet you’ve never even heard of Charlie Christian! Or Charlie Parker! Or John Coltrane! Well, have you? HAVE YOU? How can you sit there and tell these young musicians how to play when you have no idea what real music is in the first place? Who do you think you are?? You should be ashamed of yourself.”

It was true that I had never heard of those people and it was also true that I had no idea how jazz music worked. What I did know was that as an 18 year old heavy metal fan, I already didn’t like jazz music much and this episode was surely making me like it even less. The kids there were shocked at this teacher’s rude behavior and I was embarrassed. I had to say something to calm the situation down. “You`re right, maybe I have never heard of all those guys,” I started, “but regardless, I was hired to come here, and I`m here. Every person here paid to learn about my way of making music. Why don’t you give your own seminar sometime and you can talk about that old jazz garbage as much as you want. But right now, nobody in this room wants to hear about it. These kids are all rock fans. Shut up and stop bothering me.” It was really extremely unnatural for me to speak that way to someone older than I was, especially to a professor, but I had to take control of the situation so I could continue with my business. The kids seemed to be particularly impressed with my rebellious ‘heavy metal’ attitude and the seminar continued with a renewed enthusiasm.

I was very motivated as a teen and I lived and breathed heavy metal and rock. Like most motivated musical teens, I was very focused only on what I liked and couldn`t give a rat`s behind about being “well rounded” by learning all the different genres. No distortion, no life!! I never even noticed jazz music at this age, so this incident certainly turned me off to jazz in general for quite some time. I find that some jazz musicians are bitter people and they certainly don’t take rock musicians seriously. You know the old joke, “How do you get a rock lead guitarist to turn down? Put sheet music in front of him”, etc. I firmly believe that the foundation of that bitterness is the fact that many rock players are able to pick up an instrument, bang on it for a couple months, join a band and quickly get all the attention, girls, free pot and beer, etc, that they ever wanted. Jazzers practice long and extremely hard for years or decades and even when they get good they are comparatively drastically underappreciated. As an adult, I can understand how some of them can be envious. But as a teen in that music college, I just thought the guy was an asshole.

Of course years later as a professional musician, I have come across countless breathtaking jazz musicians who not only were not assholes, but were wonderful and extremely inspiring people as well. Stereotypes are definitely based in fact to some extent or they wouldn`t exist, but to grow up thinking that all jazzers are like that teacher in Hawaii would just be foolish. There are assholes in all genres of music. Although I have met and worked with many incredible jazz musicians, I never became an aficionado of the genre and would be hard pressed to try and discern who`s who among the great jazz sax legends just by hearing their music. But I do find it curious that many aspects of my improvisational style are firmly rooted in jazz concepts.